“I hope anybody’s not stupid enough to write us off.” In light of the recent trailer for ‘I Believe in Miracles’ – a cinema release film documenting Nottingham Forest’s rise from a mid-table second division side to back-to-back European champions in five years – it is perhaps fitting to start this blog with a Brian Clough quote, given after Forest drew the 1979 European Cup semi-final 3-3 with German champions FC Koln at home.
That one quote probably sums up Forest’s history from 1979 onwards, give or take a few seasons. The message is still quite clear – never write off the Reds, as they nearly always find a way to prove you wrong.
People claimed Clough could never build a second great team – he did. People claimed after Clough had gone, Forest would fall apart. Frank Clark stepped in and took the club to third in the Premier League having won promotion the year before, a record for a newly-promoted side that still stands to this day. More recently in 2011, people said Forest wouldn’t make the play-offs after falling eight points behind Leeds United. You guessed it, Forest delivered.
Now, the general consensus is that Forest will not only struggle, but struggle to survive without Michail Antonio now the winger has gone to West Ham United for a £7m fee. Well, so far so good, as Forest have taken six points from two of the toughest away games the league can offer back-to-back in QPR and Birmingham City.
Birmingham had yet to lose a game this season until Dougie Freedman’s side showed up at St Andrews, and what’s more, they restricted the Blues to just one shot on target – the lowest since Gary Rowett took charge there.
The QPR win was perhaps more impressive, as Forest had to dig in and come from a goal behind to win – albeit with the aid of a red card and penalty after R’s goalkeeper Rob Green put a high hurdle in the path of Chris O’Grady having lost control of the ball.
The best thing about the wins however was the style of play. While watching Antonio was exciting, as he ploughed his way through the opposition back line with relative ease, Forest had become a bit one-dimensional. This is now no longer the case, as there seems to be more emphasis on playing as a team, rather than get the ball to Antonio and act accordingly.
It also helps that of the players brought in on deadline day, Ryan Mendes is looking sensational so far and Chris O’Grady – despite being met with an underwhelming reception when announced, from myself included – is playing like he has a point to prove to the entire universe.
There’s still the fact that players like Andy Reid, Britt Assombalonga and Chris Cohen are to return from injury, which will only boost the side further. It’s still very early doors but, whisper it quietly, the Reds could be plotting a play-off charge.